Taiwan shares end down ahead of holiday

Taipei--Shares in Taiwan closed slightly lower Friday on reduced turnover as investors turned cautious ahead of the 228 Memorial Day long weekend, dealers said.   Selling focused on select large-cap non-high-tech stocks, in particular petrochemical and financial firms, to push down the weighted index, but the semiconductor sector bucked the downturn, bolstering the electronics sector and the broader market, they said.   The weighted index on the Taiwan Stock Exchange ended down 18.84 points, or 0.19 percent, at 9,750.47, after moving between 9,740.18 and 9,784.39.   Turnover was NT$89.69 billion (US$2.92 billion), down from Thursday's NT$101.07 billion.   The market opened down 0.12 percent on follow-through selling from a session earlier. It soon regained its footing to vault the weighted index into positive territory but traded within a narrow range for the rest of the session, dealers said.   Downward pressure turned more visible late in the session, pushing down certain market heavyweights such as Formosa Petrochemical Corp. (???) and Cathay Financial Holding Co. (???).   Contract chip maker United Microelectronics Corp. (??) trended sharply higher to offset the selling, dealers said.   "Look at the reduced trading volume. Many investors turned cautious ahead of the four-day holiday, worried that negative leads from global financial markets might pop up while Taiwan's market is closed," KGI Securities analyst Phil Chu said.   Taiwan's stock exchange will reopen for trading on March 1.   "The late session selling largely reflected the index adjustments by MSCI Inc. after a quarterly index review," Chu said. The adjustments took effect after the market closed on Friday.   Taiwan's weighting in the MSCI All-Country Asia ex-Japan Index was cut to 14.24 percent from 14.27 percent, while the country's weightings in the MSCI All-Country World Index and MSCI Emerging Markets Index were left unchanged at 1.29 percent and 12.06 percent, respectively.   Chu said that the old economy and financial sectors suffered relatively heavy downward pressure during the session as investors continued to pocket gains built in recent sessions.   In the old economy sector, Formosa Petrochemical fell 1.83 percent to close at NT$107.00, and Formosa Chemicals & Fibre Corp. (??) lost 0.31 percent to end at NT$97.20, while food maker Uni-President Enterprise Corp. (??) gained 0.18 percent to close at NT$54.60.   In the financial sector, which ended down 0.16 percent, Cathay Financial Holding Co. (???) closed 0.72 lower at NT$48.25, and Mega Financial Holding Co. (???) fell 0.83 percent to close at NT$23.90.   Yuanta Financial Holding Co. (???) ended up 1.56 percent at NT$13.00.   "Fortunately, the semiconductor sector fared well, with UMC leading the gains to prevent the broader market from falling further," Chu said.   UMC, the second largest contract chip maker in Taiwan, soared 8.51 percent to close at NT$12.75 after the company said on Thursday that it had begun commercial production with its 14 nanometer process, giving investors hope of higher earnings in the future.   Rival Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC, ???), the world's largest contract chip maker, gained 0.27 percent to end at NT$189.00. The semiconductor sub-index closed up 0.30 percent.   "The main board still faced stiff technical resistance ahead of 9,800 points," Chu said.   "But the weighted index has seen technical support at around 9,700 points. In other words, the market remained in consolidation mode."   Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel